Architecture and Writing and Compromises

Tom Wolfe once said that we all have to live with an architect’s mistakes. How true. My bad writing won’t assault your senses (and that of the public) every time you drive to work. That’s unlike the concrete tilt ups that litter every office park and too often the close-in urban landscape. Along with buildings that had a decent budget, could do design right, and instead belong in a river like the library below.

Idea Exchange, Old Post Office
RDHA, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Wallpaper* Magazine is out with another great article on design. Library architecture and design: a worldwide guide (external link) shows off some very pretty buildings that complement their subject and others that indulge in a fascination with fashion that can impact any art.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, a building facade called stacked stone has been popular for years. It is literally everywhere and will be around until people move back to stucco or stamped concrete or slate shingles for siding or whatever next becomes popular. And then all of these old buildings will start looking dated, be torn down eventually, and a new cycle begun. In Vegas every new major building, churches included, demand a curved front. No more square buildings, there has to be a front facing hemisphere for anything to get built.

Tecnológico de Monterrey New Main Library
Sasaki, Monterrey, Mexico

As I mentioned, the Wallpaper* article features some terrific looking buildings, many set like this one in Monterrey. I find HDR photography fascinating as it recalls postcard photography, where everything is pictured in, literally, its best light. Professional photographers are so good they can make a pig farm compelling, artfully playing with mud and filth.

Like architecture, writing is a compromise. Budget, orientation, acceptance. My book topic wasn’t my first choice, it was my publisher’s marketable choice. Similarly, few architects can design what they want with the budget they want. Compromises or outright lies follow.

When California wanted a new State Fairgrounds it went big. Literally. Instead of the small, tree and lawn studded old state fair ground, this new place would sprawl over whatever acreage was needed to satisfy the wish list of every exhibitor and concessionaire. Walking anywhere would become a death march in the unshaded August heat.

Relieving that somewhat would be the generous use of brick pavers. Alas, the State Fair project went over budget and acres of concrete were installed instead. And then the money ran out for that and blacktop substituted. To this day, walking the Midway is no different than walking in a 110 degree asphalt parking lot. Last year, the State Fair installed misting stations  as attendance dropped due to the heat.

Adding to this misery was the miserly maintenance budget. Ordinary state employees with little gardening skills proved unable to coax the new, poorly planted trees to good growth. Hundreds of Canary Island Pines were installed for inexplicable reasons, those slow to grow and only thin shade providers. Scores of trees died outright and were never replanted. Forty years on, the grounds resemble a pygmy forest.

This present day happy graphic shows a green and blue oasis that the architects may have originally envisioned. That blue includes a splash fountain that has now been fenced off for play by sweltering children, perhaps to prevent slip and fall lawsuits. Look but don’t touch.

As Eliot said,

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

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About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer specializing in outdoor subjects, particularly rocks, gems and minerals.
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